By Amy Gorin, MS, RDN
If you're worried about the coronavirus (and who isn't?!), use these simple tips to boost your immunity. In addition to fighting off COVID-19, these tips will also help you fend off the common cold.
Is COVID-19 contagious? It absolutely is. With more and more coronavirus cases popping up across the United States and more of us being in and out of quarantine, everyone seems to have their immune systems on their minds—and rightfully so. So what can you do to prevent catching SARS CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, especially since we're now in the waiting period for the COVID-19 vaccine.
When your immune system functions are working properly, this internal defense system will help protect you from disease- and illness-causing microorganisms. But is having a healthy immune system just the luck of the draw during this coronavirus scare?
With the number of cases growing by the day—this tracking tool from Johns Hopkins is super helpful—I'm still pretty anxious. I don't know about you, but I'm counting down the days until we have a coronavirus vaccine available for the masses.
Help Your Immune System Out
With the help of a nutrient-packed diet—hello fruits and vegetables!—you can strengthen your immune system and better fight off pesky germs. During the coronavirus pandemic, this is super important.
As you scroll down, you'll find more than a week's worth of oh-so-tasty recipes that will help your immune cells fight off bacteria and viruses that make their way into the body, as well as a list of key foods that can amp up your protection against colds and flu. Go ahead and get started today to help prevent coronavirus transmission.
And if you're not sure what to do with this grocery list of nutritious eats, you're in luck: I'm sharing my favorite smoothie recipe packed with ingredients that work to increase your immunity.
Stay well and fend off those coronavirus symptoms, my friends! Let's also be hopeful that we're not headed toward being under quarantine again.
Tasty Immunity-Boosting Recipes
You probably already know about taking simple precautions like washing your hands—say the alphabet slowly as you wash, folks! Yes, you need to scrub for that long, per the public health folks at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—doing air handshakes, and refraining from touching your face as much as humanly possible to keep prevent coronavirus transmission.
Your diet can play a super important role in fighting off illness and helping to benefit your immunity, too. To ensure you get the immune-system boost you need to stay sniffle-free this year, I chatted about the nutrients worth including in each and every meal in this Well+Good recipe roundup.
The big takeaway for foods to eat when you have a cold? Eat the rainbow for anti-inflammatory benefits for fighting off free radicals and more. You want to keep those white blood cells healthy so your immune response is optimal.
By the way, while boosting your immunity is important, so is having an emergency food supply. Also, stress won't do your immune system any good. So turn to these self care activities, and get additional information on self care strategies for anxiety relief.
By the way, healthy comfort foods are key when you're under the weather. When I catch a cold, there's nothing I crave more than a bowl of hot soup.
My favorite recipes are packed with hydrating broth and immune-boosting vegetables that help me feel better in no time! Give your immune system a boost—even if you don't eat meat! I share my vegetarian take on a comfort-food classic in this post.
Foods and Supplements to Help Immunity
When it comes to the common cold, more than 200 viruses exist that can cause symptoms of the cold such as sore throat, runny nose, and red eyes. Because being home sick is no fun, and neither are viral infections, use these tips to keep your immunity in tip-top shape this winter. Isn't fighting infections fun?
Next time you head to the grocery store to stock up for a weekend indoors (AKA away from any and all
germs), be sure to grab my go-to immune-system boosters in this Taste of Home article. These hearty and delicious foods work well as snacks or combined into a wholesome meal that will help keep a bad cough or case of the flu
By the way, in times like these (I'm looking at you, coronavirus, the current king of infectious diseases!), I'm taking to some supplements to help keep my immune system extra strong, especially while in quarantine.
I recommend you attempt to boost your immune system, too, so you don't become one of the coronavirus infected. Here's a short list of what I have in stock at my house:
What's the deal with monolaurin and coronavirus? For starters, you probably have never heard of this one. It's derived from coconut, and preliminary research reveals that it may help fight against viruses and may have other immunity benefits, per the Natural Medicines database. You can buy monolaurin on Amazon, by the way.
Try it: Monolaurin
This supplement has been gaining steam lately, and for good reason. Elderberry comes from a tree that's grown in North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. In supplement form, you may use it short term when you feel that you're starting to get sick, as it may help quell flu-like symptoms.
Try it: Elderberry
I'm sure you've heard of taking vitamin C for immune health! Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps keep your immunity strong and may help reduce the duration of the common cold. We all need a baseline amount of vitamin C in our diets. So if you're not eating a lot of fruits and veggies, one of the main sources of vitamin C, you may want to consider a supplement.
Try it: Vitamin C
This is a mineral that we all need in minimal amounts in our diets. There's some research to show that it may improve immune health when you're feeling under the weather. So this is a supplement I recommend for short-term use in those certain instances. The short-term is important, as you can overdose on zinc.
Try it: Zinc
This one is last but not least. If you're deficient in vitamin D (you can get a blood test to determine this), it's a good idea to take a daily supplement. Research has shown that vitamin D may help immunity.
Try it: Vitamin D
More Immunity-Helping Tips
Get Enough Sleep
Make sure you're getting enough hours of sleep. A German study clearly shows how shut-eye can affect immunity: Researchers had a small group of people either sleep or stay awake the night after receiving a vaccination against hepatitis A.
Four weeks later, people who slept the night after being vaccinated had significantly more antibodies against the viral liver disease, versus subjects who stayed awake. Other studies show that being sleep deprived can make you more susceptible to getting sick after exposure to a virus.
Bring Your Own Wipes
This is key when it comes to disinfecting spaces like offices and hotel rooms. Chairs and phones are two of the most heavily contaminated surfaces (versus computer mice, computer keyboards, and desktops), per research in PLoS One.
And interestingly, offices inhabited by men age germier, versus those used by women. Keep a some disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer around—it’s not a bad idea to disinfect your phone and chair after guests visit and to sanitize or wash your hands after visiting a coworker’s
While you’re at it, disinfect your hotel room, too, once you start traveling again. Research shows that a virus can easily spread from one hotel room to the next, as well as communal areas.
This happens when the housekeeping staff moves from one room to the next and when guests travel throughout the building, shows the study in Food and Environmental Virology.
Yup, you read that right! If you eat an apple a day, could this really keep the doctor away? Apples have a lot of health attributes—they’re a good source of
cholesterol-lowering fiber and immune-helping vitamin C—so the years-old question is valid. Researchers from New Hampshire, Michigan and Vermont set out to answer it.
The answer: Nope, according to the scientists' study, out in JAMA Internal Medicine. But they did find a health benefit from eating an apple a day: It helps keep the pharmacist away.
The scientists looked at 24-hour dietary recalls from 8,399 adults. The people who consumed the equivalent of at least one small apple daily were considered daily apple eaters, and 753 adults made this mark. Note that volunteers were excluded from the analysis if their apple intake was derived entirely from apple juice and applesauce.
Apple eaters were slightly more likely to avoid needing prescription meds than
non-daily-apple eaters. This is a preliminary finding, as study authors say that more research is needed to truly understand the health effects of apple intake. But it's an interesting finding,
The bottom line: Apples have multiple health benefits. At just 95 calories per medium apple, they contain antioxidants that may help protect against cardiovascular disease, colon cancer and liver cancer, per a review study in Nutrition Journal.
They should be incorporated into a healthy diet as one of many fruits consumed but are not the end-all answer to keeping the doctor away.
In one study by Seattle researchers, 115 overweight and obese postmenopausal women were asked to do 45 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five days a week for a year or to stretch once weekly for 45 minutes.
Guess what happened? The exercisers ended up with a lower risk of catching a cold, versus the stretchers. Plus, regular exercise provides other benefits, such as ones for your blood pressure as well as lowered risk of heart disease.
Of course, you want to avoid person to person contact while social distancing, per the medical advice from the National Institutes of Health. So solo exercise is probably best right now.
Amy's Immunity-Helping Recipe to Try